HAVING HER SAY
YVONNE, A PANEL MEMBER OF THE BIG VOICE TOUR
Q. What was the main reason you became a panel member?
A. Well really, because I can… for the simple reason that I can say whatever I want to about "my" government, and it’s actually quite unlikely that I’ll be arrested or that my family will be arrested just for knowing me.
There are places on Earth where you can’t voice your opinion without, frankly, endangering your life – and all my life I’ve campaigned saying these people should be heard only to find that an entire group of people in my own country are being ignored and dismissed every day.
When the likes of Mr Prescott don’t even believe we exist, something big needs to
Be done. The Big Voice Tour deserves all the support it can get.
Q. Are you homeless at present and could you tell me about how you became homeless?
A. Having left a violent relationship, with nowhere to live, the local council swept me into a Women’s Aid refuge. I didn’t want to stay and keep a room from someone who needed it more, so I moved first into a YMCA hostel, and I’m now in a women’s hostel run by Providence Row.
Q. Is there anything missing on the political agenda you feel very passionate about?
A. Plenty! For one thing, I’ve never felt the government does enough to safeguard human rights; and a basic human need is of course safe shelter.
I remember that it was a Conservative government that began the decline in social housing with their policy on the sale of council properties. I am appalled to find that it is now a Labour government; a Labour government mark you, that have proposed the ‘right to buy’ be extended to housing associations!
Q As a homeless woman, do you think women are equally treated on homeless issues?
A. I’m gonna have to be careful how I phrase this..! But in my experience, I've found that women are seen as being ‘more vulnerable’ on the streets, and – where possible – swept into shelters/hostels sooner.
Whilst I obviously agree that women shouldn’t be sleeping rough, neither should men, the worst that can happen to a woman sleeping out can – and does – happen to men too. I knew a man who was gang-raped, and in his struggle to overcome the pain, eventually took his own life.
That said, once indoors, I’ve known many women who, being emotionally vulnerable, are seen as easy prey for disgraceful ‘members of staff’ - I know a lady who left her "supported" housing, claiming to feel "safer out there"…
Q. What do you expect a new government to do for you?
A. Crisis have asked that the government conduct a census – not just a count, but a full census – of the ‘Hidden Homeless’. Until you know what someone needs, how can you help them?
Homelessness is about far more than a roof; it’s about a human being’s basic right to feel safe in their own space, and to feel that they actually belong in the world.
This will not happen until the government (whoever that may be) not only acknowledges we exist, but treats us – and everyone else – as human beings; not as numbers, statistics, or an ‘irritating little issue’ that they want to sweep out of sight – but as people.
Real people, with real voices.